Thursday, July 15, 2010 Daily Dime: Teague Brings Speed To Hawks

My contribution to today's dime concerns Jeff Teague:
Despite being an organization that prizes continuity, the Atlanta Hawks are set to introduce a new element in their attempt to improve their record for a sixth consecutive season. That element: Jeff Teague's speed. While it's unlikely new coach Larry Drew shares Mike Woodson's aversion to young guards, Teague's larger role has more to do with Drew inheriting the same problems Woodson faced with the backcourt. Mike Bibby is aging, Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford both need the ball a lot, and none of the three can effectively guard opposing point guards.

Recognizing his necessity to the coming season, the Hawks built their summer league team around Teague to the extent they didn't bring a backup point guard. His performance in carrying a load both heavier and different than he'll have in the regular season has been mixed.

On Monday night, Jeff Teague more than held his own against O.J. Mayo, simultaneously exhibiting aggression and sound decision-making while scoring 16 points and earning three assists (several potential assists failed to materialize when his teammates missed open shots). On Wednesday afternoon, Teague failed to exhibit the same control and was outplayed by D-Leaguer (granted, Spurs-affiliated D-Leaguer) Curtis Jerrells. He repeatedly forced things when he got in the lane, and although that got him to the line 12 times, it also led to nine turnovers, slightly offset by three assists, this time a fair representation of his playmaking.

Teague wasn't pleased with his play Wednesday. "I didn't have a good showing tonight. I'm glad we've got three more games. If this was our last game, I'd go home frustrated," he said. That Teague was looking forward to his next opportunity soon after a disappointing performance has to encourage the Hawks who, as Teague put it, "want me to go hard every day and work hard and get better."

Less encouraging might be that, through two games, Teague has scored 16 of his 31 points at the free throw line. With no one yet able to stay in front of him in Las Vegas, he's had little opportunity or reason to the hone the jump shot that figures to feature far more prominently in his game during the regular season. Teague's speed could be a solution to part of the team's perimeter defense problem, but it might also keep him from thriving alongside either Johnson or Crawford if he too is most effective with the ball in his hands. No matter how Larry Drew's half-court offense differs from Woodson's isolation-heavy, it's unlikely to be centered around Teague and he'll have to find other ways to score.

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